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Not guilty verdict in gun trial

A Sandys man whose DNA was found on a loaded semi-automatic pistol walked free from court yesterday after being cleared of handling a weapon.

Despite conceding that Gariko Benjamin “must have” handled the firearm, Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves ordered the jury to deliver a not guilty verdict due to a technicality over when the 24-year-old came into contact with it.

Previously, the Supreme Court heard that two female middle-school students had discovered the pistol under some dead leaves by the Railway Trail in Sandys.

The youngsters were walking through the trail near Sandys Community Centre at about 1pm on Saturday, April 23, 2011, when they spotted a man fiddling with something in the trees.

Later, they inspected the area where they had seen the man and found a gun wrapped in a black and white bandanna.

The girls ran away and called police, who attended the scene at about 1.41pm and discovered both the bandanna and the firearm, which were seized and sent for forensic testing.

Last Thursday, Candy Zuleger from Trinity DNA Solutions in Florida explained to the court that Mr Benjamin had been the major DNA contributor to the gun’s inside barrel, which had a mixture of at least two contributors.

She added that the likelihood of the DNA belonging to another black Bermudian was 1 in 2.9 quadrillion (a number containing 15 zeroes).

Ms Zuleger said that Mr Benjamin’s DNA had also been found on the bandanna, which had at least three contributors, with a 1 in 950,000 chance that the DNA in question belonged to another black Bermudian. Yesterday afternoon, however, Mr Justice Greaves pointed out an inherent flaw in the prosecution’s argument that Mr Benjamin had handled the weapon on an unknown date between July 7, 2010, and April 24, 2011.

He explained that July 7, 2010 had been entered in the indictment as this was the date when handling a weapon became a criminal offence in Bermudian law. Referring to the DNA evidence, Mr Justice Greaves told the jury that the offence “might have been quite easy for you to answer” without the rigidity of the posed timeframe.

But he added that Mr Benjamin could well have handled the weapon before July 7, 2010 - thereby crippling the prosecution’s case. “Can (you) say he must have handled it between the dates charged? I think not,” Mr Justice Greaves said.

“In my view, you cannot safely convict on this evidence. I am going to direct you formally to return a not guilty verdict against the accused.”

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